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15 October, 2003

Science Lecture - Larsen Ice Shelf

Tonight Professor MacAyeal gave a lecture on the break up of the Larsen Ice Shelf. This is located out on the "banana belt" of Antarctica. This peninsula extends farther north then where I am so it gets a lot warmer there. The United States has another station located there called Palmer station. Last year the Larsen Ice Shelf suddenly disintegrated. You need to imagine its size. Perhaps 200 meters deep, and as large as Rhode Island, this chunk of ice broke apart in less than one month. It is stunning to see the pictures. It had remained intact for over 8000 years and then almost overnight it disappeared into small icebergs.

Dr. MacAyeal argues that the cause of this is global warming. During the summer the temperature is too high. The surface melts, and this water collects in crevasses and the weight of this water splits the crevasse catastrophically, it is as if the ice shelf splits into dominoes and they suddenly fall over exposing their bluish interior. All in the course of one month.

It is happening again on another ice shelf. It makes me wonder when the Ross Ice shelf, where our instruments are, will split apart too. The B15 ice berg that calved off of it is currently splitting apart. They fear it will block another harbor, and it is wrecking the penguin habitat as it bangs up onto the coast.

Our helicopter was grounded. One more day of waiting. The flights from Christchurch may be three a day to catch up.

The helicopters are grounded because of lack of visibility.

The Larsen Ice Shelf before it broke up.

Larsen Ice Shelf after it broke up, it took only one month.

B15 breaking up. Tomorrow we should be flying only about fifty miles away from it.

Some of the South Pole cargo waiting to go come December when planes can fly there.

One of the really big cargo trucks.

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